This. This was the day it all changed. Life changed in ways not one of us could imagine at the time. We actually felt less secure. We felt more suspicious. We felt anger, but didn't know where to channel any of it. We....grieved, and didn't really know anyone (in some cases) associated with the events. Some of us would realize only later that close friends were affected. The worst part was that we didn't know what to do about it. So much was beyond our control, and we couldn't make sense out of the things we were seeing. Later, we couldn't make much sense out of the things we could see, hear, and touch. It was awful.
One thing was certain: We quickly let it be known to the world that we were proud to call this country our home. Others are welcome, and this country would never be empty of souls resolute in standing for goodness. We were unified. Most of us were inspired to work our way through the misunderstanding as we journeyed toward understanding, slowly piecing it all together.
I am not saying the USA is beyond fault. You know as well as I that flaws are present, but for once, we were unified. It didn't take much to hear "Yes! I'll help!" or "Yes! I'll be there!" We wanted to assist our brothers and sisters in any way possible. We became different people overnight.
I had only been married a few months. We received a call from my husband's daughter who told us that America was under attack. I know my face must have been totally blank. It had never occurred to me in a million years that we would be under attack. I don't know exactly why that would be the case. I had studied Pearl Harbor, and knew of vulnerabilities.
One thing I remember about that day is that eventually people started saying "stuff." Stuff that helped no one, and caused more division. Many had an opinion on what God was doing. Well....I did not agree, as God had told me nothing (we speak regularly), and furthermore...when it comes to speaking for the Almighty, I just think we need to be careful. It's like my late friend the Rev. Dr. John Claypool said, "God's other name is 'Surprise!'" Just because we think we know God's heart and mind does not provide assurance that "the Mystery" has totally revealed Himself/Herself. Be watchful. Be vigilant. You might be surprised.
One thing I do know: In the midst of horrible situations, there are good decisions to be made. First, in the consideration of "what to do," I learned to "look around" my world. My husband was a pastor of a large Houston church, and after we had watched in stunned silence for a while, he said, "I need to get to church to take care of things" (he was writing a sermon at home). What? You're leaving me? Yes....he left me. That's what leaders do. They lead. He was a leader in all things related to his church. So....he made sure to be among his staff, where he addressed church programming that was in-session for international residents, and he made calls to his local colleagues from different faith traditions (rabbis....priests....he didn't know anyone at local mosques), to offer support in case of "who knows what might happen?" types of things. I learned to take a look around and see if there might be anything I could do in my world that would let people know of my care. In addition, we realized that not everyone loved us. To realize the extent to which some would go to exercise injury and death to unknown souls was jarring, to say the least. Day-to-day became governed by a whole new set of rules and regulations that are "the norm" to this day.
Another bit of wisdom: Sometimes it is good just to be quiet and listen, before establishing a strategy of consequential action. It is important to "get it right." Rather than move too quickly and force the "clean up" policy into action, we really need to "get it right," from the beginning. Pain is pain. Maya is right. People will never forget how we make them feel. Consequences are far-reaching at times.
As I watched the memorials today, I was once again reminded that the grief of loss is never something you "get over." No....not even a little bit. Time will help us begin to move on, but that loss is forever, indelibly etched in our memory, hearts, lives, thoughts, and conversations. Somehow, we learn to manage our broken lives. We never forget. All of the events of our lives are simply...our lives. As long as we're living, these events are part of the fabric of our lives, woven together to create us as the individuals we have become...now and forever. I have found that when we remember, we heal. It helps to know that others have not forgotten. Today is the day of comforting words and music for all those who experienced loss on that horrible day.
Today, I am honored to know that my arrangement of Amazing Grace is being sung by the National Chorale and the Soldiers' Chorus, accompanied by the United States Army Field Band during the Empty Sky 9/11 Memorial in New Jersey (Statue of Liberty). I know we need an abundant measure of "grace" during grief. It gets us through the day. It makes the day more manageable. Though an indirect way to offer comfort, I hope these families will accept my gift to them on this day of memory and reflection.
And so...we move forward. Our world has changed, though at times we might relish a dose of the unification we felt back in 2001. May we always treasure the lives and heroism of those souls who perished 20 years ago. May we be resolved to make a positive difference in the world they tragically departed, as we journey through this life.
May their souls rest in peace, as we become the world's peacemakers.